The Sci-Files – 07/28/2019 – Anastasiya Lavell and Cameron De La Mora – Mentoring and Chloroplast Lipid Biosynthesis

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Anastasiya Lavell and Cameron De La Mora. 

Anastasiya is a fifth-year graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department. She is advised by Dr. Christoph Benning.  This summer she is working with an undergraduate student from Illinois State University, Cameron De La Mora, who came to MSU through our Plant Genomics REU program.

Photosynthetic organisms are key to capturing carbon dioxide and reducing it back to a usable form for other organisms to consume. The process of capturing the energy from sunlight though is quite dangerous and complex. Protein complexes and other accessory molecules are distributed in and around the thylakoid membranes, and in plants these membranes are housed by the chloroplast. Thylakoids have a special composition of membrane lipids compared to the rest of the cell in plants and studying the way these lipids are made can inform us of their importance for the process of photosynthesis. Anastasiya is currently studying a gene in Arabidopsis thaliana, the protein product of which is found in the chloroplast. This protein seems to be important for maintaining the normal composition of acyl chains on the galactolipids found in the chloroplasts of Arabidopsis. Through traditional biochemistry and molecular biology approaches, Anastasiya is trying to pinpoint exactly how this protein is participating in chloroplast lipid biosynthesis.  Together, Anastasiya and Cameron are working to further the understanding of how this protein might act as an integral membrane protease.

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